We have arrived in Melksham, Wiltshire, UK. We took a direct Vancouver to London flight followed by three trains, and arrived at the Melksham station mid-afternoon the following day.
Though we struggled to stay awake to avoid missing our stop, we were delighted to be met with a cheerful smile and big hugs from Barbb, one half of our house-sit homeowners.
Just a five-minute drive through the village High Street, and we were at our home for the next five weeks, enjoying a hot cup of tea and biscuits. Phil, the other half of our house-sit hosts, had been scrambling to rebook their flights since they had recently received word that their planned visit to Florida for the first half of their trip had been cancelled thanks to Hurricane Irma. Despite this setback, Barb and Phil treated us warmly, providing us with a delicious dinner (including pudding/dessert), breakfast, lunch, and another prepared dinner (again with pudding) for the night they left.
We are taking care of two 12-year-old Jack Russell Terriers, and a 4-year-old Jackadoodle. They need a good long walk in the morning and then another walk in the evening. Barb set us up with a binder stuffed full of brochures, notes, hand-drawn maps and discount cards for all of the many things we can (in some cases, must) see and do while we are in this area, including great walks with the dogs, and many dog-friendly activities. We had done little planning ourselves, so this wealth of recommendations is a terrific bonus. Barb and Phil continued their tutelage with a drive to a couple of favorite walks (which gave Ken a chance to practice driving on the wrong side of the road again), pointing out places we must stop at, best grocery stores, and another walk nearby, suitable for the evening outing.
We have only been on our own for a couple of days. Though just rambling with the dogs so far, there is still so much to see nearby.
We are overwhelmed with the number of things to see in this area and are really excited about our opportunities here.
Train from Gatwick airport to Melksham (3 trains – 2 changes, 2 hours)
- Purchased on virgintrains.co.uk 12 weeks ahead on virgintrains.co.uk (no admin fee).
- We used thetrainline.com to search for trains and fares. If you search for a trip longer than 12 weeks ahead, The Train Line warns you that cheaper fares generally go on sale 12 weeks ahead, and allows you to set up e-mail alerts for when the cheaper fares are available.
- There are many discount train cards available. The best bet for us, since we expect to use trains quite a bit while we are in the UK and Ireland and we will always be traveling together, was the Two Together Railcard. This card cost £30 (~$50 CAD) and provides significant discounts on all train travel for both of us. You can purchase this at many of the train stations, but best to fill out the application form ahead of time and bring a passport photo for each person. We were concerned about the short window of time between our flight arriving and the train we had booked, so arranged with our house sit host to receive the card and forward it on to us (it can only be sent to a UK address).
- Trip cost: £7.60 each or £15.20 ($25 CAD) for both of us, with the railcard.
Flight from Vancouver to Gatwick
- Purchased 3 months ahead on westjet.com.
- Trip cost: $695.82 (reduced by redeeming $99 WestJet dollars).